Mar 26, 2020

Four New Mexico Sites At Risk Of PFAS Contamination

Four more military sites in New Mexico could be contaminating local waters with PFAS

pfas contamination new mexico

The Pentagon has identified four more military sites in New Mexico that could be contaminating local waters with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a report summarizing its progress on PFAS through the end of last September.

According to the list, the military will assess whether activities at the Army National Guard armories in Rio Rancho and Roswell, the Army Aviation Support Facility in Santa Fe, and White Sands Missile Range have PFAS-ridden groundwater. Earlier investigations focused on contamination from aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) and the updated progress report expands investigations to focus on installations where PFAS may have been used or released.

New Mexico is already mitigating groundwater contamination from two Air Force bases in the state, according to the Santa Fe Reporter.

In 2018, the Air Force notified the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) that monitoring wells at Cannon Air Force Base had PFAS concentrations more than 370 times what federal regulators considered safe. Air Force testing then saw levels of PFAS up to 1,294,000 parts per trillion (ppt) in waters below Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo.

The NMED issued notices of violation to the Air Force over contamination from the two bases, reported the Santa Fe Reporter

"To our knowledge, the DOD did not reach out beforehand to inform us that they are expanding their scope to include facilities that had a lesser likelihood of having used PFAS," said NMED spokeswoman Maddy Hayden. "They also have not informed NMED of when these site inspection reports will be completed or provided."

According to the report, aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles will need to be retrofitted entirely at a cost of almost $200,000 per vehicle, which adds $600 million to earlier cleanup estimates. 

The report also notes that as part of the Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department has committed $30 million to study PFAS exposure in eight communities near former and current military installations. The studies are happening in West Virginia, Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, Washington and Delaware. The military is also exploring annual blood testing of military firefighters for PFAS levels.

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